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November 3, 2013

TRIBUTE: Perdue remembered by Cold Springs, Good Hope communities

CULLMAN — To say Samantha Perdue was adored by her family, friends and co-workers wouldn’t do it justice.

On Thursday, the longtime Cold Springs’ elementary teacher and Good Hope junior varsity volleyball coach tragically passed away after an 18-month battle with cervical cancer, leaving both communities in a state of stunned silence.

“It’s just kind of hard to believe,” said Tammy West, who taught sixth grade alongside Perdue for the past 15 years. “Every day that she walked in during her fight, we’d all ask how she doing and she would say ‘I’m blessed.’ And she was. She blessed all of us. She touched everybody at our school with her courageousness.”

When Perdue, 44, was first diagnosed with cancer, she didn’t let it deter her one bit. She awoke in the morning to receive her chemotherapy treatments before heading into school to teach her classes the rest of the day.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the school year when doctors found out the cancer had started to spread. Perdue continued to get treatment for the disease — this time with radiation — in hopes that she could continue her fight.

“She just never got better,” an emotional West said. “She was a special, special lady here. Everyone loved her. She was so sweet, kind-hearted and passionate. She loved her family and her students. We will miss her.”

Perdue’s daughter, Karlee, is a senior at Cold Springs High. Although Samantha missed a few of her daughter’s volleyball matches due to her coaching responsibilities at Good Hope, she wasn’t about to forgo Karlee’s last match, no matter what it took to get her there.

So, when Cold Springs traveled to Huntsville to participate in the North Super Regionals, it didn’t surprise anybody there to see a wheelchair-ridden Samantha — complete with an oxygen tank — front and center supporting Karlee and the Eagles.

“It really meant a lot to me,” Karlee said. “I told her not to come the first night because I was confident we were going to win. She insisted that she was coming both days. She was a fighter, and she never gave up.”

According to Karlee, the support from the community has been overwhelming during this trying time for her family. The elementary school children have sent cards and letters. Friday night’s football game against Carbon Hill saw Karlee being led on the field during senior night by her aunt, Julie, as well as the releasing of several balloons in remembrance of her mom.

“It seems like the whole community has come together,” she said. “It’s been really good.”

Current Cold Springs volleyball coach Cantrice Voce had an interesting take on her relationship with Perdue.

“She (Perdue) and Wanda Henderson are Cold Springs volleyball,” Voce said. “I was blessed and cursed when I got the coaching job after Sam. Blessed to have the privilege to work with the most beautiful young souls in the world but cursed to have the pressure of being as wonderful a person and coach as Sam was.”

Although the two share a similar age, Voce made no qualms in saying she thought of Perdue as her own role model.

“She was the fighter I always encourage my girls to be,” she said. “She was real, and I loved her for it.”

It’s not just the Cold Springs community that feels Perdue’s loss, either, as Good Hope varsity volleyball coach Rosemary Brown can attest to.

The longtime Raider coach saw Perdue lead the junior varsity squad to better days during her five-year stretch as coach.

They even won a county championship in her last match.

“She had a passion for coaching,” Brown said. “She loved volleyball. She was great with the kids. She was so positive through all of this. I’ll miss her greatly.”

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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